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Russia-Ukraine war: Turkish footballer refuses to wear anti-war shirt, citing hypocrisy

Aykut Demir shuns gesture as solidarity not shown to 'thousands who die in the Middle East'
Turkish footballer Aykut Demir was the only player not to wear a T-shirt with the words 'No war' before a match between Erzurumspor and Ankaragucu on 27 February 2022 (Screengrab/TRT Spor)

A Turkish footballer refused to wear an anti-war T-shirt condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Sunday, citing a lack of solidarity with victims of war in the Middle East. 

Aykut Demir, captain of second division side Erzurumspor, was the only player not to wear a T-shirt with the words “No war” - in both Turkish and English - before a match against Ankaragucu. 

Demir told sports publisher Futbol Anadolu: “Thousands of people die every day in the Middle East. Those who ignore the persecution there do these things when it comes to Europe. I didn't like wearing the T-shirt because it wasn't made for those countries.” 

Football matches and sporting events across Europe’s leagues displayed solidarity with Ukrainians over the weekend, as Moscow continued its assault on its neighbouring country.

'Double standards'

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On Monday, Fifa and Uefa suspended Russian clubs and national representatives from participating in competitive football indefinitely. 

It meant that the men’s national team would not face Poland in a World Cup play-off semi-final next month, and would therefore miss the finals in Qatar later this year. 

Uefa also announced that it was cancelling its €40m ($45m) a year sponsorship deal with the Russian energy company Gazprom.

Demir wasn’t the only footballing figure to cite double standards: Egyptian star Mohamed Aboutrika called on Fifa to follow the ban on Russia with a ban on Israel. 

“The decision to prevent Russian clubs and teams from participating in all tournaments must be accompanied by a ban on the participation of clubs and teams affiliated with the Zionist entity,” he tweeted on Monday, tagging Fifa’s Arabic social media account. 

“[Israel] is occupying and has been killing children and women in Palestine for years, but you used double standards.” 

In 2008, Aboutrika was reprimanded during the Africa Cup of Nations for revealing a T-shirt under his jersey which said “Sympathise with Gaza”, in protest against an Israeli blockade on the region. 

Several social media users have accused football authorities of allowing some political messages while censoring others - with many accounts posting the picture of Aboutrika from 2008. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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